Albin Hill established Hill’s Liquere in 1920, initially setting up as a wine wholesaler in the small Czech town of Brušperk. It wasn’t long before Hill began producing his own liquor and liqueurs, including such regional drinks as radigast (an herbal liqueur named for the Slavic God of War) and borovicka (juniper brandy).
Along with these herbal specialities, he also began making absinthe (or “absinth” in the Czech language) from his own recipe. The popularity of this drink during the 1920s and 30s is attested to in Czech literature from the period.
Sales of Hill’s absinthe only increased during World War II. While the Nazi Regime rationed alcohol consumption, a ration was based on the volume of liquid, rather than the strength of the alcohol. People soon realized that they could buy absinthe (55-70% alcohol) and dilute it. With this success, Hill’s son Radomil, who had studied to be a master distiller in Prague during the late 1930s and early 40s, started his own arm of the firm in 1947 in North Moravia (then part of Czechoslovakia). The father and son operation prospered until shortly after the war, producing their regional, herbal-based liquors and liqueurs.
Unfortunately, in 1948 everything changed for the Hill family. The new communist regime began their program of nationalizing all businesses in Czechoslovakia, which meant that all company land, property, and machinery, as well as the Hill’s personal property were confiscated. Fortunately, Radomil Hill saved the recipes of his father as well as another book of original recipes of the period.
The family’s fortunes did not improve until the fall of the communist regime. Considered a capitalist by the state, Albin Hill was forced to work as a night watchmen in his senior years. In 1950, Radomil Hill became a truck driver for a state-owned liquor company in Bohemia. Over the years, he moved up the ranks in this company to become chief of production as a result of his knowledge as a master distiller. However, he never disclosed the Hill family’s recipes.
With the Velvet Revolution and the end of the communist era in 1990, Radomil began
negotiating for the return of his family’s property. At the same time as he began rebuilding his company and producing liquor according to those long-held recipes, demand for absinthe in the Czech Republic was on the rise. Samples of the company’s absinthe spread to England and Canada, and their business began to thrive again.
Today, the Canadian arm of the Hill family continues the tradition of offering superior quality, low-anise absinthe, for the North American market.